No, not you. Your pets! My two Labrador Retrievers, Anna and Chloe, have just completed the Biggest Loser! program at their vet. They have lost a combined weight of over 30 lbs. When we got them from the shelter, they were already overweight by ten pounds. We added to their weight program, not by feeding them table scraps, but by feeding them the recommended amount that is printed on the bag of dog food.

When I explained that to my vet, he said that the dog food makers sell dog food and the more they get your dog to eat, the better for them. They said those recommendations are for herding dogs that work for a living, and not for the average pet that lounges in the sun. During that vet visit, he offered to let my kids listen to the dogs’ heartbeat. Sadly, they could only hear it on Chloe since Anna was over weight by 25 lbs! The vet told me that dogs should have a waist and my dog did not. I have to tell you, I felt like a terrible, neglectful pet mom. How could I let this happen?

The vet wanted to put the dogs on medicine that made them feel more full so they wouldn’t eat as much. I really didn’t want to put the dogs on unnecessary meds, so I told them I would just try old fashioned diet and exercise. I basically cut my dogs down to almost 1/2 of what I was feeding them (with the vet’s approval) and then breaking that into two meals. My dogs used to take all day to eat their food. Now they quickly eat it before the other dog can get to it. I also took them on two walks a day and the only treats they got were ice cubes, carrots and apple slices. It made a big difference.

In just over a year, my largest dog, Anna, went from 101 lbs. to 81 lbs. and my other dog, Chloe, went from 88 lbs. to 75 lbs. The vet said Anna could lose another 5 lbs, but I think that could be said for everyone. She now has a waist!

As a groomer, I see so many overweight dogs. Many of them try to sit down during their groom because the extra weight is hard on their joints. Being overweight shortens their lives as overweight dogs are prone to several health issues. In 2009, a study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention stated that more than 45 percent of dogs are now estimated to be overweight or obese. Wow! I was amazed to read in this study that giving a 40 lb dog a pig’s ear treat is the equivalent to us drinking six 12oz. colas. Even worse, Dr. Ernie Ward, lead researcher in this study, says, “Even a single, small dog bone treat given to a 10-pound dog is no different than a person eating two chocolate doughnuts. The truth is, we rarely stop at one dog treat. Give a few each day and you’ve fed the equivalent of a dozen doughnuts. No wonder we’re seeing such high obesity rates.” Double Wow!!

You can assess your dog’s body condition by these simple steps: First, you should be able to feel each rib on your dog’s body. If you can see them, he is too thin. If you can’t feel them, he is overweight. Second, stand over your dog and look down. You should be able to see a waist between his ribs and his hind legs. Third, look at your dog from the side. You should be able to see a tuck up in the waist area. Although the amount of tuck depends on your dog’s breed, no breed should have a waist that is lower than the ribs. Translation: Dogs should not have a beer gut!

If you do have an overweight dog, it is never too late to start him on a diet. Consult your vet on how you can safely bring him to his optimum weight and keep him around for many more holidays!